EU lawmakers urge Saudi Arabia to end women's guardianship

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Brussels: The European Parliament urged Saudi Arabia on Thursday to abolish its male guardianship system, under which women have to seek permission from their guardian on issues such as getting married, saying it and other rules reduce women to second-class citizens.

Parliamentarians also expressed concern over "government web services" that allow male guardians to track women when they cross borders. A Saudi application called Absher notifies men when women travel.

Although male guardianship has been chipped away at over the years it remains in force. Under the system, every Saudi women is assigned a male relative - often a father or husband but sometimes an uncle, brother or even a son - whose approval is needed if she is to marry, obtain a passport and travel abroad.

In their resolution, approved by more than two thirds of the assembly, EU lawmakers urged the Saudi government to immediately abolish the system. Current rules in the kingdom effectively make women "second-class citizens," the document said.

EU states should continue pressuring Riyadh on improving women conditions and human rights, lawmakers said. Resolutions by the parliament are not binding but can influence decisions made by EU governments and EU institutions.

Despite reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that have reduced discrimination, such as the lifting of the driving ban for women, lawmakers said "the Saudi political and social system remains discriminatory."

They urged the release from Saudi prisons of women's rights defenders, including some who were arrested after campaigning to end the ban on women driving.

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